We’ve been quietly waiting to see if Lexus IS going to ever give us another IS F, and although there are rumors, nothing has been confirmed. While it’s not a true successor to the IS F, Lexus has introduced the IS 500 F Sport Performance, which amps up the performance of the compact sedan.
Just like the IS F, the IS 500 F Sport Performance is powered by the brand’s excelled naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V8. This engine has done duty in not only the IS F, but also other performance models, like the GS F and RC F. The V8 generates a nice 472 horsepower and 395 pound-feet of torque. All that power is sent to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Since this engine isn’t turbocharged, you have to press it pretty hard to get it to show off its potential. The peak horsepower rating arrives at 7,100 rpm, while peak torque comes on at 4,800 rpm, so as you can image the IS 500 is pretty tame around town, but punch the throttle and the IS 500 comes alive. It reaches 0-60 mph in 4.4 seconds.
Even with that much power on tap, the IS 500 remains a controlled cruiser with a nice bite. Although the IS 500 is powered by the same V8 as the former IS F, the overall driving experience is geared more towards comfort, which makes it not a true IS F successor or a strong rival to the BMW M3 or Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing.
Push it hard and the transmission lets you know that it prefers a more relaxed feel with its slow shifts, which aren’t improved by selecting the Sport S and Sport S Plus drive modes, fortunately there are paddle shifters.
It’s suspension with its adaptive dampers does a great job of soaking up bumps along the way, but tackling the twisties isn’t nearly as fun as we hoped. The suspension is a bit too soft and allows more body roll than we’d like. The steering could also use more feedback to give us more confidence on those back country roads. Even its brakes aren’t really up for a track day, since they quickly fade.
At the end of the day, the IS 500’s performance is a nice improvement over the V6-powered IS 350, but if you’re hoping for a more hardcore sport sedan, then you’ll be disappointed here. The IS 500 has a great engine, but the rest of it is still aimed at comfort and relaxation.
While the IS 500’s exterior styling managed to grab lots of thumbs up along the way, the interior has less fans. For its recent redo, Lexus mainly focused its efforts on the exterior styling of the IS, which is evident with the minimal changes it gave the interior. Looking at the 10.3-inch touchscreen, you can easily see how dated the IS is. The IS has yet to receive the brand’s latest and much improved infotainment system and instead uses the old Inform multimedia system.
The infotainment system is plagued with low-resolution graphics and a clunky operating system. Even the backup camera looks like it’s at least five years old. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included, so at least that means you can bypass the dated infotainment system, but you still have to use a wire to connect it. The IS 500 also comes standard with a 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system.
You’ll notice that there aren’t really any big differences inside between the IS 500 and IS 350 or IS 300 models, besides the slightly sportier front seats. On the outside the only way you can really tell it’s an IS 500 besides its badge, are the special 19-inch wheels and quad exhausts. So does that mean the IS 500 is the ultimate sleeper sedan? A little.
At the end of the day, the IS 500 moves the needle a bit more, but it’s not a true rival to other high performance sedans, like the M3 and Mercedes-AMG C63. Its V8 can only take it so far, but with better suspensions, available all-wheel drive and meatier brakes, the IS 500’s German rivals amp up the performance a few more notches.
The good news is that the entry price for the IS 500 isn’t too hard to swallow, since it’s priced at a reasonable $58,425, including destination. That’s a big price difference from its more expensive rivals.
Lexus has already announced plans to continue to focus on sportier versions of its lineup, so although Lexus hasn’t confirmed it, there’s still room for an IS F in the lineup. Stay tuned.